When is the right time to have a child?

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Five Babies are born every minute in the United States (1920)
I want to be an offbeat mom. It has been my plan to grow up, get married, and have kids. Now at twenty-seven, I feel like I’m behind on all of the above and wonder how one “knows” when it is the right time to have a child. Or, is there no right time?

Many parents inform me that if you “wait until you are ready” it “will never happen.” The general consensus is that parents make their families work regardless of the obstacles presented to them. Am I being foolish by waiting until I feel financially secure before reproducing?

Ariel says…

Such a great question. I’ve got a slightly warped perspective on the matter, since it took me five years of trying to finally conceive — five years where we saved up and made sure we felt really financially ready to have a child.

I think back to when I first started wanting a baby at age 25, and I compare my earning potential then (I was making $500/month editing a rave magazine) vs. now (if I wanted to go back to corporate life, I’d be interviewing for Marketing Manager jobs at Micro$oft) and I feel like … maybe one silver lining of infertility was that it forced me to wait — and while I waited, I worked and saved.

But given the option, would I have had the baby in my mid-20s? YES. A million times yes. Not to get all OMG TICKING BIOLOGICAL CLOCK on you, but there’s no denying that conception and birth are usually easier in your 20s than your 30s.

Then again, as someone who’s worked on her career for over a decade, I also gotta say it’s really nice to have a solid foundation to support my family. Not that I couldn’t have gotten to this point if I’d had a child at 25, but any young working mother will tell you — it’s no walk in the park.

I’m not sure I have a clear answer — on a certain level I do agree with your parents. There’s no perfect time, and especially with the way Americans think about money … there’s NEVER enough. And the baby industrial complex looooooves to tell you that babies cost a freaking fortune, when the reality is that thanks to handmedowns and second-hands and ingenuity, you just don’t need 90% of the crap you worry about needing to save for. Then again, it’s nice to be putting money into my son’s college fund.

But! I’m just one perspective (mid-30s, infertility sufferer, middle class, etc). What about Stephanie, a mom in her 20s?


Stephanie says…

I love this question! While I totally understand your motivations to wait until you’re financially secure, in my experience, financial security isn’t always…quite so secure. As Ariel said, you quickly discover that babies don’t require NEARLY as much as the media and other parents make you think they do, and you can find some really awesome stuff second-hand or at thrift stores and estate sales. In fact, I’d say the first 12 months are pretty easy on the wallet–you’d be amazed by the deals you can find online! I think the toddler years will prove to be a bit more pricey, but that’s because of decisions we’re making for Jasper (putting him in Montessori, mostly) that aren’t decisions every parent chooses to make.

Sean and I conceived Jasper while still in college–intentionally. I got pregnant in August, and we graduated in December. Granted, we did think that it would take a little bit longer than our first try to make a baby, but we were thinking months, not years. My point: we had always discussed that IF we had children in the first place, we would have them young. This wasn’t something we spent weeks or months debating — it was kind of something we just knew. If it was going to happen, we wanted to do it now, and not later.

Pre-graduation, neither of us had a truly realistic idea of what the outside world would be like, job-wise. Both of us had worked part-time jobs for years (since age 15) and a variety of places (fast food, waiting tables, coffee shops, etc.), but we had never really tried to get full-time employment. Fast forward to graduation, a cross-country move, and discovering no one will hire a woman who is a fresh graduate (with a Sociology degree, no less) and 20 weeks pregnant in a recession, and BOOM. Instant “male has to get a job and FAST” scenario.

This didn’t exactly pan out the way we thought it would, and after moving BACK across the country, things got a little better. Neither of us are making tons of money (I work from home as a photographer & OBM editor, while Sean is a student and works part-time on-campus), but we’re also really great planners and savers.

We don’t spend money while out much (the baby really helps there, as well, and we tend to go to more free things than we used to), and we definitely don’t eat out–we cook and eat nearly all of our meals at home. On top of that, we’re very food-conscious, and don’t buy a lot of junk food when we’re at the store. Budgeting can be your BEST friend, and also allow you to still do really fun things and travel — you just have to stay aware of what you do and do not have.

And finally, I hate to echo what you’ve already heard, but I am a firm believer in the “no time is THE right time” philosophy of child-bearing — or maybe that should be “every time is THE right time,” since I like to keep it upbeat. I listened to my body, which was screaming “BABY. NOW. WOMAN.”, and Sean agreed, and that was the most thought we put into conceiving. This probably isn’t a path most people are comfortable with, but we’re not big schedulers or planners — just pretty decent budgeters.


And so, there are two perspectives — one from a 30-something mom who waited (albeit against her choice) and one from a 20-something mom who didn’t. Offbeat Mamas, what say you? Is there a RIGHT time to have a child?

Comments on When is the right time to have a child?

  1. There is no Perfect time, or one could argue that the baby chooses the perfect time to come along. But there are definitely WRONG times to have babies. When youre so poor you cant feed yourself, when youre in an abusive relationship, if you cant afford basic health care, if youre addicted to drugs and alcohol, these are not the times to have a child. But if you wait your whole life for everything to be “perfect” so you can have a kid, you will never have one.

    • I’d like to make a counterargument to your “in an abusive relationship” comment. A lot of people in abusive relationships (especially women) can be coerced into pregnancy, or they can get pregnant accidentally (or, sometimes, “accidentally”). And even if they want to get an abortion, their partners may not let them.

      I have a colleague whose daughter was born into an abusive relationship… and, in fact, her daughter’s wellbeing encouraged her to LEAVE the relationship (basically, it was the kick in the pants she needed).

    • I agree so much with the “there are wrong times to have a kid”.

      On a lot of levels, I know that I could make nearly any situation I am confronted with work, however, thinking personally, since my husband and I are barely making ends meet now… to have a child intentionally strikes me as irresponsible and unfair to them. We figured that having his education done would mean finding a decent job (in Seattle no less!) would happen, and that was naive. Bringing a child in seems so naive on top of that, that I am weary. In addition, being at the point I am in my graduate program (which is to say, just started), and being the bread winner on that graduate stipend… I’d essentially loose my job to have the child, negating the ability to feed it.

      I mean, perfect times will never happen, and I realize that life is rough… but it seems so idealized to use the “If you wait” as a sort of brush to hold it against women for trying to be fiscally responsible.

      • Hi, I just wanted to say that you can have a child in grad school, and the three women that I know who did it, two have a stay at home husband and lived off their graduate student stipend. My adviser, who is one of those three told me was extremely happy she had three during graduate school and her post doc because she had way more time then now, trying to get tenure. (I am not sure what that says about my future, eeek). Graduate school is usually quite flexible, and most everyone is extremely understanding, and universities often provide super reasonable child care.

        My husband, recent phd, is also struggling to find a job while I finish my phd so we are currently living off my stipend. We have talked about how it wouldn’t be too bad to have a child now as he could stay at home, but probably will hold off as it would sink his potential career, and sounds crazy stressful even if this is the least stressed I am going to be.

        Good luck with gradschool, and partners finding awesome jobs:)

  2. a lot of this discussion is about finances. Im worried about something else. Im turning 34 this year and my husband is turning 39. We are having trouble deciding whether to have children. We keep putting if off. Both of our sets of parents were very young when we came along and they have commented that at our age we wont have the physical energy to have sleepless nights and run after toddlers. Are we too old already? Would it be a mistake to start now? Any older mums and dads out there able to relate their experiences with this?

    • People much older than you guys have babies, but that is a question only you can answer! I am 25 and I don’t think I am handling the exhaustion better in age-based-degrees than my 35 year old husband.

    • I had my daughter at 34 (she is 10 months old). It’s true you get less sleep. And then that baby starts sleeping more, but moving around and getting into things, and it’s a different kind of tired. But you adjust, and eventually the sleep you used to get is a distant memory. But being Aspen’s mom is so fun and entertaining, that it’s so worth chasing after her, and feeding her at 4am, and getting up with her at 6am.

      I think your parents are wrong. Plenty of people are waiting till they are older. The parents group I joined after Aspen was born has 6 couples in it. My partner was the youngest at 28, and all but 1 mom is in their 30’s, mostly late 30’s.

    • My mom was 36 and my dad was 47 when I was born and they were able to keep up with my energetic self ;).
      I am now 23 and they are 60 and 70 and can still keep up! My mom says I keep her young.
      So don’t hold back just because of your age, and then regret your decision down the road!

    • My mom and dad (who are the same age) had me at 38 and my sister at 40, and they never seemed lacking in energy to me.

    • Dont you worry about age. My mother had me when she was 38 and her sister had my cousin at 42. and i think we both turned out fine 🙂 and the joy my aunt experienced has surely made her the happiest person in the world. she had been trying for 10 years for a child, and at 42 she finally succeeded and my cousin is doing spectacular.

    • My father had his four children when he was in 20s/early30s. Then, he had two more when he was in his 40s. He says that he feels that he is a better parent the second around for being older and wiser, but he is also in great physical shape.

    • Both my husband and I are adopted, and we were both adopted my women over 35. I am sure my Mom wishes she had adopted my earlier, but she loved the fact that she had stability in her life, and maturity. I think there are pros and cons to being a young Mom and being an older Mom. However, my Mom was awesome, and hand no issues keeping up with my energy level! She was always spending time with me. That said, she DEFINITELY knew she wanted kids and her passion for children probably overrode any lack of energy.

    • I’m 36. I had my first child at 33, and the hubs and I are getting ready to try to conceive soon–he’s Navy and about to be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for a year, plus 2-3 months of training before that. If we waited til after he came back, I’d likely be 39 by the time the baby was born.

      It CAN be exhausting, but it’s worth it. I have a 2 1/2 year old who still doesn’t sleep through the night most nights, and a 6 1/2 year old (step)son to get ready for school every day, but I make it work–and I love it. It’s the best thing I have ever done. There will never be a perfect time–hell, this baby will be born while my husband is across the world in a warzone. If you really want it, you can make it work. The things we often regret most as we grow older aren’t the things we did, but the things we didn’t.

    • I waited until now (34yo) to try for a child for a range of reasons. My previous partner of eight years didn’t want kids, then after I met my now husband I wanted to be married first, also my husband has three kids and needed some convincing, time to adjust to the idea etc etc.

      Now that we’re ready, I am fit, healthy, young-looking – and have age-related fertility issues!

      I didn’t know before, but there are LOTS of women in their early, mid and late thirties who kept being told they had all the time in the world, only to find that their age is now against them having a child, even *with* expensive, painful, stressful fertility treatment.

      When I went to my doctor to have my ovarian reserve checked, he tried to talk me out of it based on the “plenty of time” argument – but he was wrong and I have severely diminished ovarian reserve.

      We are *all* doing women a disservice if we say or imply that we have years of fertility left to make up our minds once we reach our thirties.

      Contrary to common perceptions, IVF and other fertility technologies are no guarantee of having a child of your own once your ovarian reserve has diminished or your egg quality has dropped. So you can’t put off kids and tell yourself “Oh well, if I want to later, I’ll just have IVF.” One IVF cycle in, I can attest that there’s no “just” about it!

      It’s one thing to choose not to have kids, but for goodness sake, make sure it’s an informed decision, because not having that choice anymore, or having to “choose” fertility treatment with an entirely uncertain outcome, absolutely sucks.

      I don’t want to be a drama llama, but if you put off having kids into your thirties, you have to be really, really clear that you run a significant risk not being able to have them at all.

  3. I had my first daughter at 19. Definitely not planned, and considering my age and the fact that I was working at a bookstore part-time while my husband was working at a grocery store, our financial situation wasn’t ideal. We struggled for many years. Then, when we became stable (meaning we were comfortable, as, in truth, I don’t think anyone is ever as financially sound as they want to be) we decided to try for another. We spent a few years on and off with no success. Then one day we found out I was pregnant. We had our second baby nine years after our first, just at the point when we had resigned ourselves to having only one child. Of course now, we’re pregnant with #3, and our second is only a year old. It wasn’t how either of us had expected it to be, but I wouldn’t trade anything for the world.

    As far as money is concerned, don’t stress too much about being completely “financially stable,” but make sure you’re able to pay bills and have a little room to save and play. As someone else said, when they’re little, they’re not as expensive as they seem. And there are so many ways to save money without missing out as well. If you’re truly wanting to try for children now, and don’t mind the schedule changes, and so on; go for it. The time is probably right for you. 😀

  4. i was 22 when my son was born and not @ the best time financially in my life…. i had just given up my business 6 months earlier, my boyfriend was still (and still is) chasing his dream so money sucked but we made it work and i didn’t have hand-me-downs nor did i have a baby shower. i think being so young and having a baby is actually cool because i really am enjoying him and i know down the road when i’m better off i’m going to give him brothers and sisters a little more planned than him

  5. I think like most have said, there never is a perfect time to have a child, but I think there is a right time. I’m really kind of bummed by all the people who have said their clock is ticking at late 20’s, even 30. I am lucky that once we decided to try we immediately got pregnant, but almost all the people I know who are parents all became parents in their mid 30’s. I guess I’m just saying, 31 isn’t a death sentence for having a child.

    As for when is a good time to have a child. I had a lot of struggle in my 20’s, and I can 100% say I wasn’t ready. My mind wasn’t ready and financially I was so far from it I couldn’t tell you. I would have been a horrible mother. Which is why my thinking then was I never wanted to have a child.

    A few more years of life experience and I am a completely different person. I have a very Zen attitude towards things that I would have been a disaster trying to handle before. I think I would have had to deal with a lot of postpartum depression had I had a child then. And I’m really happy to say, I haven’t really had any depression issues now. I got out all of my me time I needed. And most importantly, I have a husband who is the most amazing father I could have ever hoped for. I really believe if I had done it earlier, while I would have loved my child, I think I would have had some regrets whether it was not being able to provide for her or missing something for myself. By waiting I don’t have any regrets.

    So imho, there isn’t a perfect time, but I think that if you relax and look at where you are in your head and heart, that will tell you if the time is right to start trying.

    • I don’t think the 20-somethings that feel their clock is ticking mean it in a way that their years of being fertile are going to end soon. I know that personally, at almost 27…this is the first time in my life that I actually would be JOYFUL at the sight of a + on that pregnancy test. I feel a “ticking clock” in the sense that I love my husband, I love our home and I love our life…and the thought of bringing a child into our lives is pretty exciting. Maybe we should refer to it as “yearning for a child and family” and not a “ticking clock?”

    • i totally agree with siouxzi and coach. i was a mess for most of my twenties, financially, professionally and personally. my husband and i were on-and-off dating back then and i got pregnant and terminated. which was the most difficult decision i’ve ever had to go through with, but also the one life decision i am most sure of. 100%.

      whereas now, i’m in my thirties, i’m married, i’ve sorted myself out in all ways. And as coach said, i would be joyful at the sight of a positive test. something that’s only changed in the last year.

      i think people think the “right time” is the time it’s going to be easy. but it’ll never be easy! but there IS a time where it will be “right for you”.

  6. Wow. This came at the perfect time for me too. I just turned 29 and am in my first year of grad school. My partner is 27, just finished Law school and will be taking the Bar exam next month. Right now I’m a nanny and she wants to go into private practice. I still have 2 years of school plus an internship. Oh and I currently don’t have insurance. BUT we are going to start trying to conceive in Dec/Jan. WHY? Because we’re ready. We are sooooo ready. Do we live in a tiny apartment? Yes. Are our finances up in the air right now? Yes. Are we going to be AMAZING mommies? HELL YES. And I can’t wait.

  7. I’ve been in the “no right time” camp for a while now, although I think I’m switching it to the “anytime is the right time” camp!

    I am 35, and have a 10 month old daughter. My partner is 29, and until 2 months before our daughter was born, he was a student. I work for a non-profit. We were using savings to get by until he got his job as a nurse 2 weeks before our daughter was born. Now, we spend almost 50% of our income on our mortgage, but we still manage to save some money every month.

    If we waited till we were financially secure, I would be in my late 30’s to early 40’s. And I didn’t want to wait that long. When we met when I was 30, I was already wanting to have a family, and I think we talked about that on our first date (when he was all of 25 years old). Because of the difference in our ages, we compromised. I waited a little longer than I wanted to, and he became a parent sooner than he would have otherwise.

    We’ve spent very little on our daughter-less than $1000, and that is including the birth, stroller and bike trailer (her 3 big ticket items!). We’ve gotten hand-me-downs like crazy, the nicer things that we didn’t like, I took to baby consignment stores, and been able to buy what we did want for free.

  8. I definitely think that there is no perfect time to have children. When my fiance and I found out we were expecting, it came as a huge shock, I had been very sick, but as it turns out, one of the million perscriptions I was on interfered with my birth control. All in all, its been a blessing. It taught me to relax and be flexible with my plans (I am going into my senior year of college). Also, during the process of OB/GYN appointments and pap tests, we found out I had some wierd cells on my cervix related to HPV. I never would have gone to the doc in time had we not had our little suprise. So, I am a firm believer that getting pregnant was something that was meant to happen, ready or not. I feel it makes you a better person and a better parent if you are able to accept what comes your way, afterall life is an adventure!

  9. For me, I think having a child doesn’t have a right time, but rather a right mindset. I’m coming up on my last year as an undergrad, and there is absolutely no way I would have a child now or anywhere in the near future. I have a fiancee, yes, but we’ve both agreed there are things that need to be done before children – things for us. Teaching English as a second language in Japan, starting and finishing with Masters and Doctorate programs, travelling, and the list goes on. But that’s our list, and to some having a child would be first on their list of “things for us/me” but for me it’s not yet. So I don’t have the right mindset for a child, but maybe when I get to the end of “the list goes on” and I’m comfortable in my home with my wife and we’ve seen the world and done our things and are teaching happily I can see having a child being next on the list of things for us. Maybe that won’t happen until we’re 30. I’m okay with that. For others, it will happen when they’re still in college, or living in their one bedroom apartment with their lover and six dogs.

    Rather than a time, it’s a mindset. I feel like I would have the potential to resent my child, if I had one before finishing the big things on my list of things for us and it made it harder or impossible to do those things. But, you won’t resent your child if it is number one on your list.

    Therefore, the right time exists when your mind is in the right place for it. Finances certainly play a part, but I do not believe they are they only thing involved.

  10. but what about my career! None of you mention this, but this is the big factor for me, I am happily partnered and housed, I personally think finance makes little difference, but seriously at least a year break in my career seems huge how can I possibly keep progressing at the same rate? Should I wait for that promotion or will that make it worse? I understand ‘it’s never the right time’ but it clearly does effect your life/career so am I definitely ready to put a baby first?

    • This is totally a valid question/comment. I’m lucky in that I work from home, and my husband is a student and works part-time. At our house, the computer’s off during the day if the baby is awake and only one of us is with him, so I typically cram all of my working into the hour or so he naps, and then do a lot at night. If I had a career or job outside of the house, I’m not sure what I would have done–but this was also something that made me appreciate getting pregnant while still in college, before I started any kind of “real” job.

    • “None of you mention this”? But … what about me!? In my answer, I tried to highlight that my career is the biggest reason I’m glad I didn’t have a child in my 20s.

      I’ve spent the last decade working my ass off to get to a place where now I can support my family on my own happily self-employed terms. I very much doubt I would have been able to make the same advances had I been balancing a child with all that work. (I’m not saying you can’t — just that I’m not sure that I personally would have prioritized things that way.)

      But as far as a child killing your career for a year … it’s not necessarily true! I’ve actually had more career advancement in the 7 months since my son was born than I did in the year prior! Granted, I’m self-employed so it’s a little different than career advancements while working for someone else … but 2010 has been a HUGE year for my career development, despite having an infant.

      • I definitely appreciated your mentioning the career advantages of not having a child in your 20s, Ariel. And it’s great that you’ve had career advancement after becoming a mother. But I do think there is something to Fel’s point that is a little glossed over here, perhaps because Ariel and Stephanie themselves have kind of “offbeat” careers. In more conservative and/ or male-dominated fields (law, financial services, academia) there’s a ticking clock on your opportunity to earn partner/ tenure, and having a baby during those years, if you are a woman, does often cut short a woman’s career opportunities. It’s unfair that women face discrimination for their reproductive choices, but I can’t fault a woman working in such a field for weighing the career clock and the biological clock and trying to plan for a relatively better time to get pregnant.

        (It’s also worth noting, I think, that women with children earn less not only than men but also than women without kids. Of course that isn’t true for every woman, but I think ignoring this fact can lead women who struggle getting their career moving again after having a kid to blame themselves, when really, it’s the system that’s fucked.)

        • I totally recognize that my experience may be colored by now having an “offbeat career,” but I just want to clarify that until last fall, I’d put in 10 years of corporate servitude. Part of the jump in career development is that I finally opted out of corporate work and am kicking ass in self-employment instead. So, the career advancement is definitely tied to my departure from corporate work, which is tied to having a baby. So in a weird way, having a baby was the best thing I’ve done for my career because it gave me the push that I needed to finally stop dithering around working for someone else.

          Your mileage may vary, of course.

          • Right. I don’t mean to be all “motherhood is a career death sentence” and a lot of women do have successful careers while being awesome mothers, but it’s a challenge. And not to be a total buzzkill but the stats back this up. The wage gap is wider for mothers than childless women. And mothers who do want to stay on the straight-and-narrow and advance in their firm often find themselves getting mommy-tracked against their will. I mean, self-employment is great if that’s what you want, but if it is the result of being pushed out of a career path you chose because you face discrimination as a mother, well, that sucks. Of course this is not true for every woman but I think it is worth acknowledging, if only so that mothers who are feeling crummy that their careers aren’t going as planned don’t blame themselves for what is a widespread, institutional problem in lots of fields. And because I always think it is better to go into things with both eyes open.

        • I’d like to point out my mother’s experience – she had my brother and I quite early (before she really had a career at all – I was born 3 months after she graduated with her BS, and she didn’t start working full time until I was 10). Now at 50 she’s in upper management at one of the largest non-profits in the United States.

          Now, is her experience typical? I’m thinking no. Did she work her freaking ass off? Absolutely. But it does show that career advancement after kids is possible!

          • Glad to hear that! I feel like graduating college at 26 years old with two kids is shaky ground for starting a career, so I am happy to hear about anyone who’s had an awesome career after taking a break for children.

  11. I’m 25, getting married in 9 (!!!) days and just found out I’m pregnant (planned). I have an ok job and will get mat leave, I’m in the UK so the birth will be on the NHS. But FH is a self-employed acupuncturist just started up his business, so money will be tight. But we firmly believe that we’ll be fine, and this is the right time for us 🙂

  12. I think you’re ready when you’re emotionally prepared to change up your plans and make personal “sacrifices” for your partner and child. How else can you be a parent and make things work? This is a different age for everybody – I hear some people in their early 40’s saying “no way am I ready to be an adult and have a child yet!” I also knew a 17 year old who had an unplanned pregnancy and become one of the best mothers I’ve ever known – even though she never realized her dreams of finishing high school and going to college.

    I don’t think there’s ever a good financial time. One of my friends is from Cuba. When she was conceived, her parents (and about everyone else) were literally starving. They nearly aborted her because they were worried about the strain on her mother’s body, and in Cuba in the 80’s, abortions were freely available under Universal Health Care, but no one had any food (it was illegal to own any property, even). Well, they decided to go through with the pregnancy even when my friend’s twin miscarried, and my friend is an energetic and wonderful person, albeit very short and mildly anemic. If they could figure out how to feed a fourth mouth in those conditions, then I think most anyone in present-day America can (which is why I think the emotional part of readiness is more important than financial). But of course it’s great to have a little extra padding in the nest, can’t deny that!

    • Heather, I need to ask you something about your short anemic Cuban friend: You wrote “…my friend is an energetic and wonderful person, albeit very short and mildly anemic.” Did you mean to say that your friend’s shortness and anemia have depleted her energy and made her less than wonderful but you’re still her friend anyway? Or did you mean to say that her shortness and anemia SHOULD have robbed her energy and made her less wonderful, but didn’t? Or did you mean that her shortness and anemia are flaws you’ve heroically chosen to ignore? Or did you mean she should have been aborted?
      I’m 4’11” short and occasionally anemic and your post confuses the hell out of me. I’d really appreciate it if you’d be good enough to clarify it for me.

      Thanks,
      Tesa

      • I’d like to offer the reading I got, which is that although her friend’s twin sadly miscarried (possibly due to the shortness and/or anemia, but also likely from all the other difficulties mentioned), the friend went through with her pregnancy. Plus, she is a wonderful and energetic person!

        I think the commas were a little confusing, but I don’t think it was meant as a slight on her friend. 🙂

  13. So my partner and I used to be of the “wait and have everything stable” school of thought. We been together for 9 years, married for 2 and waited for my husband to graduate and get a job before trying to have a baby. I’m now 4 moths pregnant and 3 days ago my husband was fired.

    Insert “The best laid plans of mice and men…” or “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans” or your favorite saying to remind simple humans to stop trying to control the universe here.

    Though this is my first, the best advice I’ve been able to glean is that if you and your partner develop really strong skills for weathering change, you’re going to be fine no matter when you have the baby. The good times and bad times will always come, so don’t worry about that part. Work on the love, understanding and ability to find joy in the process.

  14. Ok, so I have another question to throw out –

    If we take finances out of the picture, what about the emotional aspects? I hear people saying, “NO time is the right time,” all the time when it’s *feeling* ready that is being discussed, which seems to me another way of saying, “But you HAVE to.” I feel like, all to often (in real life, and in the alt-blog world), I hear people saying, “I’m not ready” or “My partner isn’t sure they are ready,” and then following it up with, “But hey, you’re NEVER ready, so just do it.”

    That makes me feel funny.

    So. Throwing that out for discussion. How important is feeling relatively emotionally ready?

    • Here’s how I distinguish between the ideas that you’re throwing out there:

      When I say no time is the right time(/every time is the right time!), what I mean is that you can never be fully prepared for the inherent unexpected nature of parenthood. I’m not sure that totally makes sense, but basically..I’m going to try again! Ha.

      Ok:

      In an ideal situation, both partners would be emotionally prepared. While Sean and I did not meticulously plan the conception of our child (it was more of a “Let’s stop NOT trying to have a baby!”), we were totally THERE. We were ready. We have an awesome marriage, we’re solid, and we’ve together for the long haul. So in that aspect, we were already like “Yes. Baby would be great.”

      I really do like to say “every time is the right time”, and it’s more than because I like to put a positive spin on it. But I don’t mean that like…anytime you’re in a negative situation is the right time, and I’m not a big proponent of having babies to save a marriage (all 4 of us were “save the marriage” babies, and my parents still ended up divorced). But I think when people say “no time is the right time”, they mean that you can’t plan it to great detail. Parenthood is inherently messy, unpredictable, outrageous, complicated, awesome, soul-shaking, beautiful, blissful, serene, insane…etc. So I guess saying “I’m not ready” and then saying “but you’re never ready” is basically saying “Hey, I’m not 100% sure I’m going to be a kickass parent BUT no one is ever 100% sure they’re going to be a kickass parent.”

      I was on the bed GIVING BIRTH and like “OMG, SEAN, WE’RE HAVING A BABY, OMG!” So..you know. You just have to be flexible. Roll with it. Yeah.

      Did I answer this at all?

    • I know some folks who are going thru what you’re describing, where one partner is absolutely ready, and her husband is unsure he’s ready to change his lifestyle, has worries about parenthood, etc.

      To me (and I will say that I am not a parent yet), if someone says they’re not ready emotionally…then they’re not ready. yes, I believe there’s lots of uncertainty and things to be scared of-having kids is a venture into the unknown! But, I think you should be solid in the knowledge that you and your partner can work through handling the scary unknown things. Does that make sense? Like, there are a bazillion things I worried about/scared of around having a child. But am I certain that my partner and I can communicate and laugh our way through what comes? Yes.

      So I think being certain of your ability to that is something you should have. The rest is just having faith that you’ll be able to handle the rest.

    • I was pretty selfish before I met and married my husband. It was about my clothes, my car, my apartment, my partying…MINE, MINE, MINE. I was able to enjoy that luxury and now I have no problem focusing on everything BUT myself. Maybe it’s because I teach and spend my days worrying about other people but there has definitely been a shift from inward to outward focus. Regardless of whether or not my husband is ready to have kids (he is, but for the purpose of explanation) I think a woman has to be secure with herself and her position in life in order to turn her attention outward in order to take care of a child. I guess I’ve just realized that there are going to be a lot of times in life coming up that aren’t going to be about me, but instead about our children and our family. And I feel a certain sense of calm and peace with that. Is that being emotionally ready?

    • I think the reality is that we grow in response to our circumstances. I don’t think you can anticipate how having a child will change you.

  15. A confession, I didn’t read through all the comments.

    However, I did want to re-iterate one thing: I think the question to ask yourself is – “is this the absolute WRONG time to have a baby.” If the answer is “yes,” then you’ll know it. If it’s “eh, it’s not ideal, but it’s ok,” then that’s your answer.

    Yes, unplanned pregnancies happen and people go on to be fine and etc., but in terms of trying to plan ahead, I think “is this the WRONG time” is a good barometer.

  16. I used to be in the “wait for the right time” camp until one day I realize that there would never be a truly right time, some times would be better than others but it would never be perfect baby time. Upon some reflection I realized that I was using this as an excuse to procrastinate on a major life change (fear of the unknown/ fear of change).

    When I decided to surrender and instead say “when it happens, it will be the right time” (thinking that I would still have a year or 2 left, I quickly got pregnant but was relaxed and embraced the experience instead of freaking out about timing and finances.

  17. So many comments! I know for our family having our children while we are in school allows for us to be stay at home parents. While we may be broke as hell our daughters get one parent or another at all times. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  18. As a 22 year old writer 9 months into my first year of marriage, this post is MONUMENTALLY helpful! My husband and I are very excited to have kids, though we are collectively confused about choosing a time in our lives to start trying. We keep saying 5 years, though both of are kind of itching to start sooner.

  19. A week after my 17th birthday, I discovered (much to my suprise) that I was 5 months pregnant, and made the choice to have an abortion. Though I in no way regret my decision, the experience increased my desire to have children exponentially. I can still recall the deep, devastating loss that set up camp inside me after the procedure. Even though I knew I was making the right decision, I also know that life happens, and would keep happening regardless of having a child. I still have a connection to the little bean that shared my body for 5 months, who I named Sunshine while heavily, HEAVILY medicated, staring at the bright florescent lights of the clinic ceiling

  20. So glad this got brought up. I’m in the same boat (27 just got married working on a pretty nice career) Almost everyone one I know who already have children did not plan them so it happened and they’ve made it work.

    I almost wish I would’ve been less diligent about my birth control and had a happy accident like all my friends, but alas I am the “responsible” one.

    I do feel that owning my home, being married to my best match, and having an established career will give me a slight advantage when we do finally have our first child, but there are definately worries I have too. Like what if we can’t naturally concieve? I don’t really believe in “playing god” and doing lots of fertility treatments and such (although I don’t believe in “god” either) and adoption as well as medical treatments are so very expensive, so there goes my finincial advantage.

    Also what if I don’t want to be away from my little one 40+ hours every week? Then there goes all the work I put into my career and the comfy money situation. If I do keep working, will my relationship with my child suffer? I don’t want a babysitter/daycare getting more time with my child than me. Also daycare is pricey.

    So if it would just happen I wouldn’t have to make these hard decisions, I’d just deal with it, maybe I’ll “accidently” forget that antibiotics affect my BC or forget to take it all together and leave it up to nature.

  21. I am 26, have been married for 8 months and we have just recently decided that now is the right time to go off birth control and see what happens.

    For me, being married was a must before kids (which is strange because we’re not religious or generally tradtional like that). Owning a home and both having stable incomes were also on the defintiely want list.

    We would have liked to be totally debt free as well, but we dont want to wait another year for that. As silly as it sounds to the 40 year olds moms I actually am worried about infertility. No real reason to be worried except for knowing that it declines after 25 and being aware that theres a lot of ppl who leave it to 30 and find out they cant. I’d rather have a baby a little earlier than planned than have ppl tutting tutting for leaving it “too late”.

    But I digress…My husband has been ready for kids for a long time. I’ve only very recently felt ready and its because for the first time in my life I feel I am capable of looking after someone else and put another person’s needs before my own without any resentment.

    Before now I could have managed a baby but I would always have slightly resented giving up my life and sacrificing things.

    • So, 1: This is a great discussion and a great community and thank all of you for that.

      And 2: I wanted to jump in and say I don’t find it odd at all if you want to be married before having children for non-religious reasons. It’s a very sensible choice econimically. I only know the law in my tiny european country, but assuming it’s similar in many places: Marriage legally is mostly a financial agreemet. Two people sign a contract confirming they want to combine their fortunes, incomes and support each others going forward. This means that in case one of two people ends up being a stay at home parent, marriage is their protection, guaranteeing them a right to part of their spouse’s income. It’s not romantic, but very important financially.
      I think it’s well worth considering marriage as one of the things to do before having children.

  22. I’m on the slow boat. I’m 34 and just 12 weeks along with my first, even though my hubby and I have been together for 13 years (!) and he’s been ready for a long time (but we’re STILL not totally financially stable!).

    I never felt my clock ticking, and although I love children and always knew we wanted to have them, I didn’t want to jump in without being really excited about it. I’m sure I could have done a great job earlier, but I really enjoyed my freedom and being able to do a million creative things, sing in a rock band, sew and run an Etsy shop, blog, go to Burning Man – all on top of my full-time career. Every time I thought about the huge change a baby would bring to my amazing life, I felt nervous and stressed.

    I never wanted to do it out of fear of declining fertility rates or a feeling of obligation. There was a point I was afraid I might never have that “I-want-a-baby” feeling, and was worrying about how long I would wait if that never came? But a few months ago I just decided I was ready to WANT a baby, and I literally consciously changed my thinking around it, and stopped being so fearful, and it totally worked. I feel great about my decision to wait until I was emotionally ready, and I’m hoping I can still juggle at least a few of those passions, but if my priorities change, I’m okay with it, because I know it’s my choice.

    We were super-lucky that we got pregnant right away, and all the long-suffering grandparents are thrilled.

    I think there’s no right answer to this question, and not everyone gets to choose when they have a baby – but certainly you should listen to your heart (and your partner’s heart!). I’m so glad I did. Your own opinion matters more than anyone else’s.

  23. It’s interesting that abortion stories have come up a couple times already in this context, because having my abortion last year has been one of the things that has helped me clarify whether or not I want children, and when I might be ready for one.

    Previous to the abortion it always seemed like a decision I would make in the far-off future, that I didn’t need to worry about now. But when my birth control failed and we did end up with an unplanned pregnancy six months after we got married, I was faced with thinking about whether or not I was ready.

    In the end, my own readiness was kind of a moot point because my partner was not ready. The pregnancy also brought things into sharper focus for him, and he has said he still does not feel ready for the responsibility.

    One major difference between the two of us is that I’m not sure he has my ability to just let go. He wants the financial stability, the house, the career, etc. before a baby (if there’s a baby at all) – and he finds it really hard to see how it could possibly even work without all those things.

    I, on the other hand, am more of the “we’d have love, and that’s enough” mentality – but I’m not completely insensitive to the very real challenges that we would face if we had a child right now, and I think a lot of the reason he feels the way he does is because he knows the onus of the financial responsibility at least would fall on him since he makes much more than I do.

    To me, the “are we ready” question is wrapped up in the “do we even want this” question, too. And my conundrum is what do you do when one of you is ready and the other one is not? This is compounded for me by the knowledge that he may never want children. By no means have I decided that I definitely do want any, but I’m here so obviously I am interested in exploring my options.

    Basically, sometimes ready for one half of the couple isn’t the same as ready for the other half. And that more than anything shows just how subjective and individualized that readiness can be. There are so many different definitions of “ready”, and hopefully you and your partner are on the same page, but what if you’re not? In the end, making that determination of readiness often isn’t just one person’s decision, and it can be difficult to compromise on such huge life-altering decisions. This is something my husband and I are struggling with now, and i just want to add my voice and my experience to the mix.

  24. After reading this post and the many comments following, I just wanted thank everyone for participating in this discussion in such a respectful, thoughtful, heartfelt way. Your stories are so empowering and shared in such a positive, constructive way. Thank you!

    And the one thing I’m ‘waiting’ for before having kids? Learning to drive! I know it sounds silly but I’m 26 and have a US driving license, but have moved to another country, so my goal is to at least be able to drive here before installing a carseat. 🙂

  25. i got engaged at 21 earlier this winter, and soon was too busy devoting my time to offbeatbride to notice the very very subtle changes in my body. by the time i found out i was pregnant, i was 6 months along and had just been offered an amazing job promotion.

    i struggled alot with the timing of everything, being young and missing out on building a “career”, but now, at 9 months pregnant and married, i wouldnt have changed a single thing. im so in love with my son, feeling him move and squirm inside of me, knowing hes a part of me in a way nothing else will ever be. no job could ever replace what im in for, a living, breathing person, who i will grow with and get to nurture and love. our pregnancy wasnt planned, our plan was to wait for 5 yrs and be secure and have all our crap together, but life is what happens when we’re too busy trying to map out our lives. things could have been different, and i could still be working and saving and planning, but i wouldnt have this little boy, this little treasure thats growing inside of me now

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